Sunday 24th April – 16:00 – Wembley Stadium
Two years ago Crystal Palace and Watford met at Wembley for the Championship play-off final, and now the pair will line up under the arch for an FA Cup semi-final. Palace won that day, and the two teams have come very far since, indeed they were sixth and seventh in the Premier League respectively on Christmas Day. Since then however, fortunes haven’t been so kind for both teams, with the Eagles winning just once in the league in 2016 as they have dropped to 16th. In the cup though, wins against Southampton (2-1), Stoke City (1-0), Tottenham Hotspur (1-0) and Reading (2-0) have earned them a place in the semi-finals for the first time since 1995. Palace have never won the competition, and have reached the final just once – in 1990 when boss Alan Pardew was part of the playing squad. Watford have never lifted the famous trophy either, but reached the final in 1984. This is their first last four tie since 2007, and on route they have defeated Newcastle 1-0, Nottingham Forest 1-0, Leeds 1-0 and most impressively the holders Arsenal 2-1 in the quarter-final. In the league though, like Palace they have dropped off since the New Year and currently sit in 12th having won just once in seven games. Which one of these horrendously out of form teams will join Manchester United at Wembley?
- Eagles quartet Yannick Bolasie, Scott Dann, Joel, Ward and Joe Ledley have shaken off minor knocks that saw them miss the midweek defeat at Manchester United.
- James McArthur made his comeback from an ankle injury at Old Trafford but he is unlikely to start at Wembley.
- The only long-term absentees for Alan Pardew’s side are Marouane Chamakh (hip), Brede Hangeland (knock) and Kwesi Appiah (knee).
- Quique Sanchez Flores rested players in midweek and Troy Deeney and Odion Ighalo are among those expected to return.
- Nordin Amrabat is suspended following his sending off at West Ham, but other than that, Flores has a full-strength side to choose from.
- The only players likely to remain from the defeat at Upton Park are Heurelho Gomes, Craig Cathcart, Jose Holebas, Sebastian Prodl, Jose Manuel Hurado and Almen Abdi.
The Key Battle: Wayne Hennessey vs Troy Deeney
To displace a club goalkeeper who has barely missed a game in eight seasons is no easy task, but Wayne Hennessey has done just that this season, taking the #1 shirt away from fan favourite Julian Speroni.
He has also fought off competition from Alex McCarthy between the sticks, and despite a few errors at the start of the year, he has recovered well as he looks to go into Euro 2016 on top form for Wales.
In the FA Cup so far this season, Hennessey has conceded only one goal in four ties, whilst if doesn’t let a goal in at Wembley, Palace would keep four successive clean sheets in the competition for the first time since 1924.
Aiming to make that not happen is Watford captain Troy Deeney, who is set to return after being rested against West Ham in midweek.
Watford’s longest serving player having joined in 2010, the 27 year old could make history if he captains the Hornets to glory in this competition. Deeney played a key role in the quarter-final win over Arsenal as he set up both of his side’s goals, whilst he also scored the winning goal in the third round tie against Newcastle.
Deeney also has an excellent penalty record (scored 17/20), so could be a hero if the game goes all the way, but did miss one in midweek at Upton Park. Hennessey not so much, saving just three out of 48 he has faced in his career. The Watford striker has already netted from the spot against the Welshman back in February.
Crystal Palace wins = 46 / Watford wins = 41 / Draws = 25
*According to http://www.11v11.com
Last Meeting: Crystal Palace 1-2 Watford (13th February 2016)
Troy Deeney scored twice to steer Watford to victory and extend Crystal Palace’s run without a league win to nine games. The captain put Watford into an early lead from the penalty spot, but Emmanuel Adebayor’s first goal for Palace drew the Eagles level. Watford retook the lead with seven minutes left when Deeney drove home Ben Watson’s cross. And Palace ended with 10 men after Pape Souare was shown a red card late on. The Senegalese defender was shown a straight red by referee Robert Madley for a two-footed challenge on Valon Behrami. [Full BBC report]
Alan Pardew: “We’re squeezing games in; the run we’ve had, this is our fourth game in 12 days. That’s a tough run, when you’ve got a semi-final, the biggest game in this club’s history for a while, since the play-off final.”
Quique Sanchez Flores: “The feelings we have in this competition are really good, but we need to take care of the little details, take good decisions and try to be calm, because it’s not a moment to have fear,” he told the club’s official website. We need to be completely responsible because we are defending Watford, 30,000 fans will go there, and we have an amazing responsibility, because we would like to be in the final.”
The Referee – Craig Pawson
- Last FA Cup game: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Crystal Palace (21st February 2016) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Crystal Palace game: Tottenham Hotspur 0-1 Crystal Palace (21st February 2016) – 3 yellow cards, 0 red cards
- Last Watford game: Watford 1-2 Stoke City (19th March 2016) – 4 yellow cards, 0 red cards
2015-16 Record: Games = 35 / Yellow Cards = 108 / Red Cards = 3 / Penalties = 3
Stat of the Match
Watford have lost only one of six previous FA Cup ties with Palace (W3, D2), a 1-0 fifth-round defeat after extra time in 1995.
Where Can I Watch It?
The game is live on BT Sport 1 on Sunday afternoon from 3pm, with kick-off an hour later. Meanwhile, the highlights will be on BBC One that evening at 11:30pm.
My Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Watford (Watford win on penalties)
I honestly cannot separate these teams, so I’m going to have to say the game will go to penalties after goals from Wilfried Zaha and Troy Deeney. In terms of spot-kicks, I think the luck will be with Watford who will advance to their first cup final in 32 years.